Rinse and sort beans and place into a deep pot, adding water to cover beans plus about an inch or so. Do not add any seasonings or salt! Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes uncovered, turn off heat, cover and let soak for one hour.
Meanwhile chop all of your veggies. Melt butter in a skillet; add onion, bell pepper, and celery and saute until tender. Meanwhile, slice sausage into about 1/4-inch rounds. Toss the garlic, black and red pepper and basil into the vegetable mixture and let seasoning meld with the veggies for a few minutes, stirring.
Drain and rinse beans and put them back into pot; add about 1-1/2 quarts of fresh water. Dump entire contents of veggie skillet into pot of beans, toss in the bay leaves and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Meanwhile, put about a teaspoon of olive oil into the same pan you used to saute the veggies, and heat over medium high heat. Toss in the sliced sausage and cook until nicely browned, about 15 minutes.
Dump into beans. Simmer beans for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, uncovered, or until tender and nicely thickened. Taste and add salt if needed. Do not add salt until the beans are done! Salt tends to both toughen the beans and also makes them take longer to cook. Scoop beans over hot, cooked rice and serve with hot buttered rolls or better yet, a big slice of hot buttered cornbread. Yum!
*Yes, that is a whole stick! This isn't a low fat recipe. The butter adds richness to the beans and makes them very creamy and just super delish. You can try to do without it, but I just can't recommend it. :)
**I usually have a mix of green, yellow and red bell peppers that I slice and freeze, so I often use this mix instead of the fresh green bell pepper. Either way the bell pepper is key to the flavor so don't skip this veggie!
By Mary from Ocean Springs, MS
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